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Title:
FOCUSING SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR USE IN A COCHLEAR IMPLANT SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2014/093037
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
An exemplary sound processor may 1) identify a stimulation site within a cochlea of a patient that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal presented to the patient, 2) dynamically designate, based on the identified stimulation site, a first group of one or more electrodes as a group of one or more main electrodes and a second group of one or more electrodes as a group of one or more compensating electrodes, and 3) dynamically determine, based on the identified stimulation site, an amount of main current to be applied to each electrode included in the first group of one or more electrodes in order to represent the audio signal and an amount of compensating current to be applied to each electrode included in the second group of one or more electrodes to focus an excitation field created by the main current.

Inventors:
LITVAK, Leonid M. (842 Mansfield, Los Angeles, California, 90038, US)
MARZALEK, Michael S. (1631 Los Olivos Road, Santa Rosa, California, 95404, US)
Application Number:
US2013/072494
Publication Date:
June 19, 2014
Filing Date:
November 29, 2013
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
ADVANCED BIONICS AG (Laubisruetistrasse 28, Staefa, Staefa, CH)
International Classes:
A61N1/36
Foreign References:
US7769467B12010-08-03
US20120179223A12012-07-12
US20090248110A12009-10-01
US20090264960A12009-10-22
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LAIRD, Travis K. (922 W. Baxter Drive, Suite 100South Jordan, Utah, 84095, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is: 1 . A system comprising:

a processing facility that identifies a stimulation site within a cochlea of a patient that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal presented to the patient, the stimulation site included within a plurality of stimulation sites associated with a stimulation channel corresponding to a plurality of electrodes; and

a stimulation management facility communicatively coupled to the processing facility and that

dynamically designates, based on the identified stimulation site, a first group of one or more electrodes included in the plurality of electrodes as a group of one or more main electrodes and a second group of one or more electrodes included in the plurality of electrodes as a group of one or more compensating electrodes, and

dynamically determines, based on the identified stimulation site, an amount of main current to be applied to each electrode included in the first group of one or more electrodes in order to represent the audio signal and an amount of

compensating current to be applied to each electrode included in the second group of one or more electrodes to focus an excitation field created by the main current, the compensating current opposite in polarity compared to the main current.

2. The system of claim 1 , wherein the stimulation management facility directs a cochlear implant associated with the patient to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently:

applying the determined amount of main current to the first group of one or more electrodes; and

applying the determined amount of compensation current to the second group of one or more electrodes.

3. The system of claim 1 , wherein the plurality of electrodes comprises a first electrode, a second electrode, a third electrode, and a fourth electrode sequentially disposed within the cochlea, and wherein the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic designation and the dynamic determination in accordance with a

quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy.

4. The system of claim 3, wherein:

the identified stimulation site is in between a stimulation site associated with the second electrode and a stimulation site associated with the third electrode;

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic designation in accordance with the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy by designating, based on the identified stimulation site being in between the stimulation site associated with the second electrode and the stimulation site associated with the third electrode, the second and third electrodes as being main electrodes included in the group of one or more main electrodes and the first and fourth electrodes as being compensating electrodes included in the group of one or more compensating electrodes; and

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic determination in accordance with the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy by determining, based on the identified stimulation site being in between the stimulation site associated with the second electrode and the stimulation site associated with the third electrode, a first weighted amount of the main current to be applied to the second electrode in accordance with a current steering strategy,

a second weighted amount of the main current to be applied to the third electrode in accordance with the current steering strategy,

a first weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the first electrode, and

a second weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the fourth electrode. 5. The system of claim 3, wherein:

the identified stimulation site is associated with the second electrode;

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic designation in accordance with the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy by designating, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the second electrode, the second electrode as being a lone main electrode included in the group of one or more main electrodes and the first, third, and fourth electrodes as being compensating electrodes included in the group of one or more compensating electrodes; and the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic determination in accordance with the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy by determining, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the second electrode, the amount of main current to be applied to the second electrode, a first weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the first electrode,

a second weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the third electrode, and

a third weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the fourth electrode.

6. The system of claim 3, wherein:

the identified stimulation site is associated with the third electrode;

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic designation in accordance with the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy by designating, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the third electrode, the third electrode as being a lone main electrode included in the group of one or more main electrodes and the first, second, and fourth electrodes as being compensating electrodes included in the group of one or more compensating electrodes; and

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic determination in accordance with the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy by determining, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the third electrode,

the amount of main current to be applied to the third electrode, a first weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the first electrode,

a second weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the second electrode, and

a third weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the fourth electrode.

7. The system of claim 1 , wherein the plurality of electrodes comprises a first electrode, a second electrode, and a third electrode sequentially disposed within the cochlea, and wherein the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic designation and the dynamic determination in accordance with an inverse steering strategy.

8. The system of claim 7, wherein:

the identified stimulation site is associated with the first electrode;

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic designation in accordance with the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy by designating, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the first electrode, the second electrode as being a lone main electrode included in the group of one or more main electrodes and the third electrode as being a lone compensating electrode included in the group of one or more compensating electrodes; and

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic determination in accordance with the inverse steering strategy by determining, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the first electrode,

the amount of main current to be applied to the second electrode, and the amount of compensating current to be applied to the third electrode.

9. The system of claim 8, wherein the stimulation management facility directs a cochlear implant associated with the patient to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently:

applying the determined amount of main current to the second electrode;

applying the determined amount of compensation current to the third electrode; and

abstaining from applying current to the first electrode.

10. The system of claim 7, wherein:

the identified stimulation site is associated with the second electrode;

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic designation in accordance with the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy by designating, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the second electrode, the second electrode as being a lone main electrode included in the group of one or more main electrodes and the first and third electrodes as being compensating electrodes included in the group of one or more compensating electrodes; and the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic determination in accordance with the inverse steering strategy by determining, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the second electrode,

the amount of main current to be applied to the second electrode, a first weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the first electrode, and

a second weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the third electrode.

1 1 . The system of claim 7, wherein:

the identified stimulation site is associated with the third electrode;

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic designation in accordance with the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy by designating, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the third electrode, the second electrode as being a lone main electrode included in the group of one or more main electrodes and the first electrode as being a lone compensating electrode included in the group of one or more compensating electrodes; and

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic determination in accordance with the inverse steering strategy by determining, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the first electrode,

the amount of main current to be applied to the second electrode, and the amount of compensating current to be applied to the first electrode.

12. The system of claim 1 1 , wherein the stimulation management facility directs a cochlear implant associated with the patient to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently:

applying the determined amount of main current to the second electrode;

applying the determined amount of compensation current to the first electrode; and

abstaining from applying current to the third electrode.

13. The system of claim 1 , wherein the plurality of electrodes comprises a first electrode, a second electrode, a third electrode, and a fourth electrode sequentially disposed within the cochlea, and wherein the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic designation and the dynamic determination in accordance with a narrow focused steering stimulation strategy.

14. The system of claim 13, wherein:

the identified stimulation site is associated with the second electrode;

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic designation in accordance with the narrow focused steering stimulation strategy by designating, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the second electrode, the second electrode as being a lone main electrode included in the group of one or more main electrodes and the first and third electrodes as being compensating electrodes included in the group of one or more compensating electrodes; and

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic determination in accordance with the narrow focused steering stimulation strategy by determining, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the second electrode, the amount of main current to be applied to the second electrode, a first weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the first electrode, and

a second weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the third electrode.

15. The system of claim 14, wherein the stimulation management facility directs a cochlear implant associated with the patient to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently:

applying the determined amount of main current to the second electrode;

applying the determined first weighted amount of the compensating current to the first electrode;

applying the determined second weighted amount of the compensating current to the third electrode; and

abstaining from applying current to the fourth electrode.

16. The system of claim 13, wherein:

the identified stimulation site is associated with the third electrode;

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic designation in accordance with the narrow focused steering stimulation strategy by designating, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the third electrode, the third electrode as being a lone main electrode included in the group of one or more main electrodes and the second and fourth electrodes as being compensating electrodes included in the group of one or more compensating electrodes; and

the stimulation management facility performs the dynamic determination in accordance with the narrow focused steering stimulation strategy by determining, based on the identified stimulation site being associated with the third electrode,

the amount of main current to be applied to the third electrode, a first weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the second electrode, and

a second weighted amount of the compensating current to be applied to the fourth electrode.

17. The system of claim 16, wherein the stimulation management facility directs a cochlear implant associated with the patient to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently:

applying the determined amount of main current to the third electrode;

applying the determined first weighted amount of the compensating current to the second electrode;

applying the determined second weighted amount of the compensating current to the fourth electrode; and

abstaining from applying current to the first electrode.

18. The system of claim 1 , wherein:

the processing facility identifies an additional stimulation site within the cochlea of the patient that is to be stimulated in order to represent an additional audio signal presented to the patient, the additional stimulation site included within the plurality of stimulation sites associated with the stimulation channel corresponding to the plurality of electrodes; and

the stimulation management facility

dynamically designates, based on the identified additional stimulation site, a third group of one or more electrodes included in the plurality of electrodes as a group of one or more main electrodes and a fourth group of one or more electrodes included in the plurality of electrodes as a group of one or more compensating electrodes, and dynamically determines, based on the identified additional stimulation site, an amount of main current to be applied to each electrode included in the third group of one or more electrodes in order to represent the additional audio signal and an amount of compensating current to be applied to each electrode included in the fourth group of one or more electrodes to focus an excitation field created by the main current applied to the third group of one or more electrodes, the compensating current applied to the fourth group of one or more electrodes opposite in polarity compared to the main current applied to the third group of one or more electrodes. 19. The system of claim 1 , wherein:

the processing facility identifies an additional stimulation site within the cochlea of the patient that is to be stimulated in order to represent an additional audio signal presented to the patient, the additional stimulation site included within the plurality of stimulation sites associated with the stimulation channel corresponding to the plurality of electrodes; and

the stimulation management facility

dynamically determines, based on the identified additional stimulation site, a different amount of main current to be applied to each electrode included in the first group of one or more electrodes in order to represent the additional audio signal and a different amount of compensating current to be applied to each electrode included in the second group of one or more electrodes to focus an excitation field created by the different amount of main current, the different amount of compensating current opposite in polarity compared to the different amount of main current. 20. The system of claim 1 , wherein the processing facility identifies the stimulation site by:

determining a frequency of a spectral peak associated with the audio signal and included in an analysis channel that corresponds to the frequency channel; and

identifying a stimulation site that corresponds to the identified frequency.

21 . The system of claim 1 , wherein the plurality of electrodes includes more electrodes that define the stimulation channel and one or more electrodes adjacent to the one or more electrodes that define the stimulation channel.

22. The system of claim 1 , wherein the first group of one or more electrodes and the second group of one or more electrodes do not overlap.

23. A system comprising:

a processing facility that divides an audio signal presented to a patient into a plurality of analysis channels each containing a frequency domain signal representative of a distinct frequency portion of the audio signal, and

a stimulation management facility communicatively coupled to the processing facility and that directs a cochlear implant associated with the patient to apply electrical stimulation representative of each frequency domain signal included in the plurality of analysis channels in accordance with a stimulation strategy that includes a degree of focusing that is analysis channel-dependent.

24. A method comprising:

identifying, by a sound processor, a stimulation site within a cochlea of a patient that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal presented to the patient, the stimulation site included within a plurality of stimulation sites associated with a stimulation channel corresponding to a plurality of electrodes;

dynamically designating, by the sound processor based on the identified stimulation site, a first group of one or more electrodes included in the plurality of electrodes as a group of one or more main electrodes and a second group of one or more electrodes included in the plurality of electrodes as a group of one or more compensating electrodes; and

dynamically determining, by the sound processor based on the identified stimulation site, an amount of main current to be applied to each electrode included in the first group of one or more electrodes in order to represent the audio signal and an amount of compensating current to be applied to each electrode included in the second group of one or more electrodes to focus an excitation field created by the main current, the compensating current opposite in polarity compared to the main current.

25. The method of claim 24, further comprising directing, by the sound processor, a cochlear implant associated with the patient to stimulate the identified stimulation site by: applying the determined amount of main current to the first group of one or more electrodes; and

applying the determined amount of compensation current to the second group of one or more electrodes.

Description:
FOCUSING SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR USE IN A COCHLEAR

IMPLANT SYSTEM

RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/737,676, filed December 14, 2012, the contents of which are hereby

incorporated by reference in their entirety.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

[0002] Current steering is often used in cochlear implant systems to more effectively represent sound presented to cochlear implant patients. In traditional current steering strategies, weighted stimulation current is applied concurrently to two adjacent electrodes by a cochlear implant system in order to stimulate a stimulation site located in between areas associated with the electrodes. In this manner, the cochlear implant system may create a perception of a frequency in between the frequencies associated with the electrodes.

[0003] While current steering is effective in augmenting sound perception, it may introduce spectral broadening, which in turn may compromise spectral resolution. This may be particularly problematic in cases where an audio signal (e.g., speech) includes spectral peaks that represent the distinguishing or meaningful frequency components of the audio signal. In these cases, it may be desirable to present electrical stimulation representative of the spectral peaks to a cochlear implant patient in as fine of spectral resolution as possible.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS [0004] The accompanying drawings illustrate various embodiments and are a part of the specification. The illustrated embodiments are merely examples and do not limit the scope of the disclosure. Throughout the drawings, identical or similar reference numbers designate identical or similar elements.

[0005] FIG. 1 illustrates an exemplary cochlear implant system according to principles described herein. [0006] FIG. 2 illustrates a schematic structure of the human cochlea according to principles described herein.

[0007] FIG. 3 illustrates exemplary components of a sound processor according to principles described herein.

[0008] FIG. 4 shows an exemplary frequency domain representation of an audio signal that may be presented to a cochlear implant patient according to principles described herein.

[0009] FIG. 5 shows an exemplary analysis channel according to principles described herein.

[0010] FIGS. 6-12 illustrate various stimulation strategies according to principles described herein.

[0011] FIG. 13 illustrates an exemplary implementation of current steering according to principles described herein.

[0012] FIG. 14 illustrates an exemplary implementation of current steering that may be used to dynamically focus one or more excitation fields produced by current steering electrodes according to principles described herein.

[0013] FIG. 15 illustrates an exemplary focusing method according to principles described herein. DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0014] Focusing systems and methods for use in a cochlear implant system are described herein. As will be described below, a sound processor included in a cochlear implant system may 1 ) identify a stimulation site within a cochlea of a patient that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal presented to the patient, the stimulation site included within a plurality of stimulation sites associated with a stimulation channel corresponding to a plurality of electrodes, 2) dynamically designate, based on the identified stimulation site, a first group of one or more electrodes included in the plurality of electrodes as a group of one or more main electrodes and a second group of one or more electrodes included in the plurality of electrodes as a group of one or more compensating electrodes, and 3) dynamically determine, based on the identified stimulation site, an amount of main current to be applied to each electrode included in the first group of one or more electrodes in order to represent the audio signal and an amount of compensating current to be applied to each electrode included in the second group of one or more electrodes to focus an excitation field created by the main current. The sound processor may then direct a cochlear implant associated with the patient to stimulate the identified stimulation site by applying the determined amount of main current to the first group of one or more electrodes and applying the determined amount of compensation current to the second group of one or more electrodes.

[0015] As used herein, a stimulation strategy that includes "focusing" refers to a stimulation strategy that directs a cochlear implant to apply compensating current to one or more compensating electrodes while main current representative of a portion of an audio signal is applied to one or more main electrodes. As will be described below, the compensating current is opposite in phase compared to the main current and serves to focus (e.g., narrow) the excitation field produced by the main current, thereby resulting in finer spectral resolution compared to stimulation strategies in which focusing is not used. Focusing may also be referred to as "spectral focusing."

[0016] By using the identified stimulation site to both dynamically designate different electrodes associated with the same stimulation channel as either main electrodes or compensating electrodes and to dynamically determine different amounts of main current and compensating current to be applied to the electrodes, the systems and methods described herein may enhance frequency resolution, reduce spectral smearing, and improve patient perception of audio signals. Another benefit of the systems and methods described herein is that they may be used to maintain a constant excitation field width for a particular stimulation channel, which may improve patient perception of audio signals and minimize fluctuations in noise perception by a patient. Maintaining a constant excitation field width is described more fully in co-pending PCT Application No. , attorney docket number 3021 -0398-WO, entitled "Systems and Methods for Controlling a Width of an Excitation Field Created by Current Applied by a Cochlear Implant System," filed the same day as the present application and incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

[0017] FIG. 1 illustrates an exemplary cochlear implant system 100. As shown, cochlear implant system 100 may include various components configured to be located external to a patient including, but not limited to, a microphone 102, a sound processor 104, and a headpiece 106. Cochlear implant system 100 may further include various components configured to be implanted within the patient including, but not limited to, a cochlear implant 108 and a lead 1 10 (also referred to as an electrode array) with a plurality of electrodes 1 12 disposed thereon. As will be described in more detail below, additional or alternative components may be included within cochlear implant system 100 as may serve a particular implementation. The components shown in FIG. 1 will now be described in more detail.

[0018] Microphone 102 may be configured to detect audio signals presented to the patient. Microphone 102 may be implemented in any suitable manner. For example, microphone 102 may include a microphone that is configured to be placed within the concha of the ear near the entrance to the ear canal, such as a T-MIC™ microphone from Advanced Bionics. Such a microphone may be held within the concha of the ear near the entrance of the ear canal by a boom or stalk that is attached to an ear hook configured to be selectively attached to sound processor 104. Additionally or alternatively, microphone 102 may be implemented by one or more microphones disposed within headpiece 106, one or more microphones disposed within sound processor 104, one or more beam-forming microphones, and/or any other suitable microphone as may serve a particular implementation.

[0019] Sound processor 104 (i.e., one or more components included within sound processor 104) may be configured to direct cochlear implant 108 to generate and apply electrical stimulation (also referred to herein as "stimulation current") representative of one or more audio signals (e.g., one or more audio signals detected by microphone 102, input by way of an auxiliary audio input port, etc.) to one or more stimulation sites associated with an auditory pathway (e.g., the auditory nerve) of the patient.

Exemplary stimulation sites include, but are not limited to, one or more locations within the cochlea, the cochlear nucleus, the inferior colliculus, and/or any other nuclei in the auditory pathway. To this end, sound processor 104 may process the one or more audio signals in accordance with a selected sound processing strategy or program to generate appropriate stimulation parameters for controlling cochlear implant 108.

Sound processor 104 may include or be implemented by a behind-the-ear ("BTE") unit, a body worn device, and/or any other sound processing unit as may serve a particular implementation. For example, sound processor 104 may be implemented by an electro-acoustic stimulation ("EAS") sound processor included in an EAS system configured to provide electrical and acoustic stimulation to a patient.

[0020] In some examples, sound processor 104 may wirelessly transmit stimulation parameters (e.g., in the form of data words included in a forward telemetry sequence) and/or power signals to cochlear implant 108 by way of a wireless communication link 1 14 between headpiece 106 and cochlear implant 108. It will be understood that communication link 1 14 may include a bi-directional communication link and/or one or more dedicated uni-directional communication links.

[0021] Headpiece 106 may be communicatively coupled to sound processor 104 and may include an external antenna (e.g., a coil and/or one or more wireless communication components) configured to facilitate selective wireless coupling of sound processor 104 to cochlear implant 108. Headpiece 106 may additionally or alternatively be used to selectively and wirelessly couple any other external device to cochlear implant 108. To this end, headpiece 106 may be configured to be affixed to the patient's head and positioned such that the external antenna housed within headpiece 106 is communicatively coupled to a corresponding implantable antenna (which may also be implemented by a coil and/or one or more wireless communication components) included within or otherwise associated with cochlear implant 108. In this manner, stimulation parameters and/or power signals may be wirelessly transmitted between sound processor 104 and cochlear implant 108 via a communication link 1 14 (which may include a bi-directional communication link and/or one or more dedicated uni-directional communication links as may serve a particular implementation).

[0022] Cochlear implant 108 may include any type of implantable stimulator that may be used in association with the systems and methods described herein. For example, cochlear implant 108 may be implemented by an implantable cochlear stimulator. In some alternative implementations, cochlear implant 108 may include a brainstem implant and/or any other type of active implant or auditory prosthesis that may be implanted within a patient and configured to apply stimulation to one or more stimulation sites located along an auditory pathway of a patient.

[0023] In some examples, cochlear implant 108 may be configured to generate electrical stimulation representative of an audio signal processed by sound processor 104 (e.g., an audio signal detected by microphone 1 02) in accordance with one or more stimulation parameters transmitted thereto by sound processor 104. Cochlear implant 108 may be further configured to apply the electrical stimulation to one or more stimulation sites within the patient via one or more electrodes 1 12 disposed along lead 1 10 (e.g., by way of one or more stimulation channels formed by electrodes 1 12). In some examples, cochlear implant 108 may include a plurality of independent current sources each associated with a channel defined by one or more of electrodes 1 12. In this manner, different stimulation current levels may be applied to multiple stimulation sites simultaneously (also referred to as "concurrently") by way of multiple electrodes 1 12.

[0024] FIG. 2 illustrates a schematic structure of the human cochlea 200 into which lead 1 10 may be inserted. As shown in FIG. 2, the cochlea 200 is in the shape of a spiral beginning at a base 202 and ending at an apex 204. Within the cochlea 200 resides auditory nerve tissue 206, which is denoted by Xs in FIG. 2. The auditory nerve tissue 206 is organized within the cochlea 200 in a tonotopic manner. Relatively low frequencies are encoded at or near the apex 204 of the cochlea 200 (referred to as an "apical region") while relatively high frequencies are encoded at or near the base 202 (referred to as a "basal region"). Hence, each location along the length of the cochlea 200 corresponds to a different perceived frequency. Cochlear implant system 100 may therefore be configured to apply electrical stimulation to different locations within the cochlea 200 (e.g., different locations along the auditory nerve tissue 206) to provide a sensation of hearing.

[0025] FIG. 3 illustrates exemplary components of sound processor 104. It will be recognized that the components shown in FIG. 3 are merely representative of the many different components that may be included in sound processor 104 and that sound processor 104 may include additional or alternative components as may serve a particular implementation.

[0026] As shown in FIG. 3, sound processor 104 may include a processing facility 302, a stimulation management facility 304, and a storage facility 306, which may be in communication with one another using any suitable communication technologies.

Storage facility 306 may be configured to maintain processing data 308 generated and/or used by processing facility 302, and stimulation data 310 (e.g., data

representative of one or more stimulation parameters) generated and/or used by stimulation management facility 304. Storage facility 306 may maintain additional or alternative data as may serve a particular implementation. One or more of facilities 302-306 may include a computing device or processor configured to perform one or more of the functions described herein. Facilities 302-306 will now be described in more detail.

[0027] Processing facility 302 may be configured to process an audio signal presented to a cochlear implant patient (e.g., an audio signal detected by microphone 102, an audio signal input by way of an auxiliary audio input port, etc.). For example, processing facility 302 may perform one or more pre-processing operations, spectral analysis operations, noise reduction operations, mapping operations, and/or any other types of signal processing operations on a detected audio signal as may serve a particular application.

[0028] In some examples, processing facility 302 may divide an audio signal presented to a cochlear implant patient into a plurality of analysis channels each containing a frequency domain signal (or simply "signal") representative of a distinct frequency portion of the audio signal. This may be performed in any suitable manner. For example, processing facility 302 may be implemented by a plurality of band-pass filters configured to divide the audio signal into a plurality of frequency channels or bands. Additionally or alternatively, processing facility 302 may be configured to convert the audio signal from a time domain into a frequency domain and then divide the resulting frequency bins into the plurality of analysis channels. To this end, processing facility 302 may include one or more components configured to apply a Discrete Fourier Transform (e.g., a Fast Fourier Transform ("FFT")) to the audio signal.

[0029] To illustrate, FIG. 4 shows an exemplary frequency domain representation of an audio signal 402 that may be presented to a cochlear implant patient. As illustrated by the dashed vertical lines, processing facility 302 has divided the audio signal 402 into a plurality of analysis channels 404-1 through 404-7 (collectively "analysis channels 404"). Each analysis channel 404 corresponds to a particular frequency band. For example, analysis channel 404-1 corresponds to a frequency band defined by frequencies fo and fi . While seven analysis channels 404 are shown in FIG. 4, it will be recognized that processing facility 302 may divide the audio signal 402 into any number of analysis channels as may serve a particular application.

[0030] Each analysis channel 404 may contain a frequency domain signal representative of a distinct frequency portion of audio signal 402. For example, the portion of audio signal 402 that is included in the frequency band defined by

frequencies fo and fi may be referred to as the frequency domain signal contained within analysis channel 404-1 .

[0031] As illustrated in FIG. 4, various spectral peaks 406 (e.g., spectral peaks 406- 1 through 406-3) may be located within one or more of analysis channels 404. These spectral peaks 406 may represent the distinguishing or meaningful frequency

components of audio signal 402. For example, if audio signal 402 includes speech, spectral peaks 406 may be representative of formants included in the speech. As used herein, a formant represents a resonance of the human vocal tract and is associated with the utterance of a vowel sound.

[0032] Each analysis channel 404 may correspond to a stimulation channel 408 (e.g., stimulation channels 408-1 through 408-7). Each stimulation channel 408 may be defined by one or more electrodes (e.g., one or more of electrodes E1 through E8). In the particular example of FIG. 4, each stimulation channel 408 is defined by two electrodes. For example, stimulation channel 408-1 , which corresponds to analysis channel 404-1 , is defined by electrodes E1 and E2. Likewise, stimulation channel 408- 2, which corresponds to analysis channel 404-2, is defined by electrodes E2 and E3. While FIG. 4 shows a one-to-one mapping of analysis channels 404 to stimulation channels 408, it will be recognized that multiple analysis channels may be mapped to a single stimulation channel as may serve a particular implementation.

[0033] Each electrode may be located at a position within the cochlea (or any other structure within the patient) that corresponds to a stimulation site associated with a particular frequency. For example, electrode E1 is located at a position that

corresponds to a stimulation site associated with frequency fo. Hence, stimulation of electrode E1 by itself may result in the patient perceiving frequency fo. As will be described below, to represent an audio signal having a frequency that corresponds to a stimulation site located in between stimulation sites associated with two electrodes, current steering between the two electrodes may be used. It will be recognized, however, that the correspondence between the electrode location and the associated spectral region may not be exact, but could depend on, among other factors, electrode placement and unique anatomical features of an individual patient.

[0034] As mentioned, each stimulation channel 408 may be defined by one or more electrodes. However, any number of electrodes may correspond to the stimulation channel 408. For example, electrodes E2 and E3 define stimulation channel 408-2 shown in FIG. 4. However, electrodes E1 through E4 may correspond to stimulation channel 408-2 in that main current may be applied to one or more of electrodes E1 through E4 to represent an audio signal (e.g., a spectral peak) included in analysis channel 404-2 and in that compensating current may be applied to one or more of electrodes E1 through E4 to focus an excitation field produced by the main current.

[0035] To illustrate, FIG. 5 shows an exemplary analysis channel 502 that contains a frequency domain signal 504. In the example of FIG. 5, analysis channel 502 corresponds to a stimulation channel 506 corresponding to four electrodes - electrodes Ek-2, Ek-i , Ek, and Ek+i . In this configuration, current steering between electrodes Ek-i and Ek may be used to represent frequency domain signal 504.

[0036] For example, FIG. 5 shows that main current 508-1 having a weighted amplitude of w and main current 508-2 having a weighted amplitude of 1 -w are concurrently applied to electrodes Ek-i and Ek, respectively. This results in a peak envelope located at frequency f. In the absence of focusing (i.e., if no compensating current is applied to one or more electrodes surrounding electrodes Ek-i and Ek), the excitation field associated with the peak envelope is relatively broad, as represented by envelope 51 0.

[0037] However, in accordance with a stimulation strategy that includes focusing, compensating current 51 2-1 and 51 2-2 (collectively "compensating current 51 2") opposite in polarity compared to that of main current 508-1 and 508-2 (collectively "main current 508") may be applied to electrodes Ek-2 and Ek+i concurrently with the application of main current 508-1 and 508-2 to electrodes Ek-i and Ek. As shown, electrodes Ek-2 and Ek+i surround electrodes Ek-i and Ek. Compensating current 51 2 serves to focus the excitation field associated with the peak envelope, as represented by envelope 514. It will be recognized that compensating current may be applied by way of any number of compensating electrodes.

[0038] As will be described below, the systems and methods described herein facilitate dynamic selection of which electrodes are to be designated as main electrodes and which electrodes are to be designated as compensating electrodes. The systems and methods described herein also facilitate dynamic determination of an amount of main current to be applied to each of the designated main electrodes and amount of compensating current to be applied to each of the compensating electrodes. For example, with respect to the example provided in FIG. 5, a different audio signal having a frequency domain signal included in analysis channel 502 may be subsequently presented to the patient. To represent this audio signal, main current may be applied to electrode Ek-i and compensating current may be applied to electrodes Ek-2, Ek, and Ek+i . The dynamic designation and determination may be based on the particular stimulation site that is to be stimulated in order to represent the audio signal to the patient.

[0039] To this end, processing facility 302 may identify a stimulation site within a cochlea of a patient that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal presented to the patient. The stimulation site may be included within a plurality of stimulation sites associated with a stimulation channel corresponding to a plurality of electrodes. For example, referring to FIG. 4, the identified stimulation site may be included within a plurality of stimulation sites associated with stimulation channel 408-2. To illustrate, the stimulation site may correspond to a first edge of stimulation channel 408-2 (i.e., be located at a position directly stimulated by electrode E2), a middle of stimulation channel 408-2 (i.e., be located at a position in between locations directly stimulated by electrodes E2 and E3), or a second edge of stimulation channel 408-2 (i.e., be located at a position directly stimulated by electrode E3). It will be recognized that any number of stimulation sites may be associated with a stimulation channel.

[0040] Processing facility 302 may identify a stimulation site within a cochlea of a patient that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal presented to the patient in any suitable manner. For example, processing facility 302 may determine a frequency of a spectral peak associated with the audio signal and included in an analysis channel that corresponds to the frequency channel. Processing facility 302 may then identify a stimulation site that corresponds to the identified frequency. For example, in order to represent the frequency domain signal included in analysis channel 404-1 , processing facility 302 may determine a frequency of spectral peak 406- 1 and identify a stimulation site that corresponds to the frequency of spectral peak 406- 1 . Alternatively, a stimulation site may be determined after psychophysical masking principles are applied to determine the shape of the spectrum as it would be presented in the auditory system of a normally-hearing individual.

[0041] Stimulation management facility 304 may be configured to manage (e.g., control) stimulation provided by cochlear implant 108. For example, as mentioned, processing facility 302 may identify a stimulation site that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal presented to the patient and that is associated with a stimulation channel that corresponds to a plurality of electrodes. In response, stimulation management facility 304 may dynamically designate, based on the identified stimulation site, a first group of one or more electrodes included in the plurality of electrodes as a group of one or more main electrodes and a second group of one or more electrodes included in the plurality of electrodes as a group of one or more compensating electrodes. In some examples, the first and second groups of one or more electrodes do not overlap (i.e., they each include a distinct set of electrodes). Stimulation management facility 304 may also dynamically determine, based on the identified stimulation site, an amount of main current to be applied to each electrode included in the first group of one or more electrodes in order to represent the audio signal and an amount of compensating current to be applied to each electrode included in the second group of one or more electrodes to focus an excitation field created by the main current. Stimulation management facility 304 may then direct cochlear implant 108 to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently applying the determined amount of main current to the first group of one or more electrodes and the determined amount of compensation current to the second group of one or more electrodes.

Various examples of this will now be provided.

[0042] In some examples, four electrodes correspond to the stimulation channel associated with the identified stimulation site - a first electrode, a second electrode, a third electrode, and a fourth electrode sequentially disposed within the cochlea. The first electrode is the most apically disposed of the four electrodes and the fourth electrode is the most basally disposed of the four electrodes. In these examples, stimulation management facility 304 may perform the dynamic designation and the dynamic determination in accordance with a quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy. As used herein, a "quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy" is one in which stimulation management facility 304 dynamically designates, based on the identified stimulation site, one or both of the middle electrodes (i.e., the second and/or third electrodes) as main electrodes and the remaining electrodes as compensating electrodes.

[0043] To illustrate an exemplary quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy, reference is made to FIG. 6. For the sake of comparison, FIG. 6 includes three panels 602-1 through 602-3 that each show excitation fields that may occur in response to stimulation of various configurations of four electrodes labeled E1 through E4. In particular, panel 602-1 shows excitation fields that may occur in response to stimulation of various electrode configurations in accordance with a monopolar stimulation strategy, panel 602-2 shows excitation fields that may occur in response to stimulation of various electrode configurations in accordance with a quadripolar stimulation strategy, and panel 602-3 shows excitation fields that may occur in response to stimulation of various electrode configurations in accordance with a quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy. As will be described below, the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy may allow for a full continuum of pitches between the stimulation site

associated with E2 and the stimulation site associated with E3 while at the same time focusing the excitation fields produced by the stimulation. [0044] Panel 602-1 shows an exemplary excitation field 604-1 (represented by a dotted line) that may result in response to monopolar stimulation of electrode E2 in isolation. Such monopolar stimulation is illustrated in FIG. 7A. As shown in FIG. 7A, main current 702 is applied to electrode E2 while no current is applied to electrodes E1 , E3, and E4. As shown in FIG. 6, the resulting excitation field 604-1 has a peak 606-1 that corresponds to the stimulation site associated with electrode E2. However, excitation field 604-1 is spread broadly across a relatively large area, which may result in interference with adjacent stimulation channels.

[0045] Panel 602-1 also shows an exemplary excitation field 604-2 (represented by a dashed line) that may result in response to monopolar stimulation of electrode E3 in isolation. Such monopolar stimulation is illustrated in FIG. 7B. As shown in FIG. 7B, main current 704 is applied to electrode E3 while no current is applied to electrodes E1 , E2, and E4. As shown in FIG. 6, the resulting excitation field 604-2 has a peak 606-2 that corresponds to the stimulation site associated with electrode E3. However, excitation field 604-2 is also spread broadly across a relatively large area, which may result in interference with adjacent stimulation channels.

[0046] Panel 602-1 also shows an exemplary excitation field 604-3 (represented by a solid line) that may result in response to concurrent monopolar stimulation of electrodes E2 and E3. Such monopolar stimulation is illustrated in FIG. 7C. As shown in FIG. 7C, main current 706-1 and 706-2 is applied in a current steering manner to electrodes E2 and E3 while no current is applied to electrodes E1 and E4. As shown in FIG. 6, the resulting excitation field 604-3 has a peak 606-3 that corresponds to a stimulation site located midway (labeled "Mid" in FIG. 6) in between the stimulation sites associated with electrodes E2 and E3. However, excitation field 604-3 is also spread broadly across a relatively large area, which may result in interference with adjacent stimulation channels.

[0047] As mentioned, panel 602-2 shows excitation fields that may occur in response to stimulation of various electrode configurations in accordance with a quadripolar stimulation strategy. As used herein, a quadripolar stimulation strategy is one in which fixed (i.e., fixed amplitude) compensating current is applied to two electrodes surrounding two electrodes that define a stimulation channel. In the example of FIG. 6, the stimulation channel is defined by electrodes E2 and E3 and the fixed compensating current is applied to electrodes E1 and E4. [0048] To illustrate, panel 602-2 shows an exemplary excitation field 608-1

(represented by a dotted line) that may result in response to stimulation of electrode E2 in the presence of fixed compensating current applied to electrodes E1 and E4. Such stimulation is illustrated in FIG. 8A. As shown in FIG. 8A, main current 802 is applied to electrode E2 at the same time that fixed compensating current 804-1 and 804-2 opposite in polarity compared to main current 802 is applied to electrodes E1 and E4. No current is applied to electrode E3. Although the resulting excitation field 608-1 is focused due to the presence of compensating current 804-1 and 804-2, the peak 610-1 of excitation is shifted away from the stimulation site associated with electrode E2, as shown in FIG. 6. This is because the compensating current 804-1 applied to E1 is relatively closer to E2 than the compensating current 804-2 applied to E4. Hence, it may be impossible for a cochlear implant system employing a quadripolar stimulation strategy to stimulate stimulation sites located on the boundary of a stimulation channel.

[0049] Panel 602-2 also shows an exemplary excitation field 608-2 (represented by a dashed line) that may result in response to stimulation of electrode E3 in the presence of fixed compensating current applied to electrodes E1 and E4. Such stimulation is illustrated in FIG. 8B. As shown in FIG. 8B, main current 806 is applied to electrode E3 at the same time that fixed compensating current 804-1 and 804-2 opposite in polarity compared to main current 806 is applied to electrodes E1 and E4. No current is applied to electrode E2. Although the resulting excitation field 608-2 is focused due to the presence of compensating current 804-1 and 804-2, the peak 610-2 of excitation is shifted away from the stimulation site associated with electrode E3, as shown in FIG. 6. As described above, this is because the compensating current 804-2 applied to E4 is relatively closer to E2 than the compensating current 804-1 applied to E1 .

[0050] Panel 602-2 also shows an exemplary excitation field 608-3 (represented by a solid line) that may result in response to concurrent stimulation of electrodes E2 and E3 in the presence of fixed compensating current applied to electrodes E1 and E4. Such stimulation is illustrated in FIG. 8C. As shown in FIG. 8C, main current 808-1 and 808-2 is applied to electrodes E2 and E3, respectively, at the same time that fixed compensating current 804-1 and 804-2 opposite in polarity compared to main current 808-1 and 808-2 is applied to electrodes E1 and E4. The resulting excitation field 608- 3 is focused due to the presence of compensating current 804-1 and 804-2. Moreover, because of the symmetry of the stimulation, excitation field 608-3 has a peak 610-3 that corresponds to a stimulation site located midway in between the stimulation sites associated with electrodes E2 and E3.

[0051] Now that monopolar and quadripolar stimulation strategies have been described, the benefits of a quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy may be recognized. To illustrate, panel 602-3 shows an exemplary excitation field 612-1

(represented by a dotted line) that may result in response to stimulation of electrode E2 in the presence of dynamically determined compensating current applied to electrodes E1 , E3, and E4. Such stimulation is illustrated in FIG. 9A. As shown in FIG. 9A, main current 902 is applied to electrode E2 at the same time that dynamically determined compensating current 904-1 , 904-2, and 904-3 opposite in polarity compared to main current 902 is applied to electrodes E1 , E3, and E4, respectively. The weighted amount (i.e., the amplitude) of compensating current 904-1 , 904-2, and 904-3 may be determined based on the desired stimulation site, which, in this case, corresponds directly to electrode E2. For example, as shown in FIG. 9A, the amount of

compensating current applied to electrodes E1 and E4 is greater than that applied to electrode E3.

[0052] As illustrated in FIG. 6, the resulting excitation field 612-1 is focused due to the presence of compensating current 904-1 , 904-2, and 904-3. Advantageously, by applying compensating stimulation to electrodes E1 , E3, and E4, the peak 614-1 of excitation is at the stimulation site associated with E2 (and not shifted as it was with the quadripolar stimulation strategy).

[0053] Panel 602-3 also shows an exemplary excitation field 612-2 (represented by a dashed line) that may result in response to stimulation of electrode E3 in the presence of dynamically determined compensating current applied to electrodes E1 , E2, and E4. Such stimulation is illustrated in FIG. 9B. As shown in FIG. 9B, main current 906 is applied to electrode E3 at the same time that dynamically determined compensating current 908-1 , 908-2, and 908-3 opposite in polarity compared to main current 902 is applied to electrodes E1 , E2, and E4, respectively. The weighted amount (i.e., the amplitude) of compensating current 908-1 , 908-2, and 908-3 may be determined based on the desired stimulation site, which, in this case, corresponds directly to electrode E3. For example, as shown in FIG. 9B, the amount of

compensating current applied to electrodes E1 and E4 is greater than that applied to electrode E2. [0054] As illustrated in FIG. 6, the resulting excitation field 612-2 is focused due to the presence of compensating current 908-1 , 908-2, and 908-3. Advantageously, by applying compensating stimulation to electrodes E1 , E2, and E4, the peak 614-2 of excitation is at the stimulation site associated with E3 (and not shifted as it was with the quadripolar stimulation strategy).

[0055] Panel 602-3 also shows an exemplary excitation field 612-3 (represented by a solid line) that may result in response to concurrent stimulation of electrodes E2 and E3 in the presence of dynamically determined compensating current applied to electrodes E1 and E4. Such stimulation is illustrated in FIG. 9C. As shown in FIG. 9C, main current 910-1 and 910-2 is applied to electrodes E2 and E3, respectively, at the same time that dynamically determined compensating current 912-1 and 912-2 opposite in polarity compared to main current 910-1 and 910-2 is applied to electrodes E1 and E4. The resulting excitation field 612-3 is focused due to the presence of compensating current 912-1 and 912-2. Moreover, because of the symmetry of the stimulation, excitation field 612-3 has a peak 614-3 that corresponds to a stimulation site located midway in between the stimulation sites associated with electrodes E2 and E3.

[0056] In general, stimulation management facility 304 may use the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy illustrated in FIG. 6 and FIG. 9 to stimulate any stimulation site associated with the stimulation channel defined by electrodes E2 and E3.

[0057] For example, processing facility 302 may identify a stimulation site

associated with electrode E2 as the stimulation site that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal to a patient. In response, stimulation management facility 304 may dynamically designate, based on the identified stimulation site, electrode E2 as being a lone main electrode and electrodes E1 , E3, and E4 as being compensating electrodes. Stimulation management facility 304 may also dynamically determine, based on the identified stimulation site, an amount of main current to be applied to electrode E2, a first weighted amount of compensating current to be applied to electrode E1 , a second weighted amount of compensating current to be applied to electrode E3, and a third weighted amount of compensating current to be applied to electrode E4. Stimulation management facility 304 may then direct cochlear implant 108 to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently applying the determined amount of main current to electrode E2 and the determined weighted amounts of compensating current to electrodes E1 , E3, and E4.

[0058] Processing facility 302 may subsequently identify a stimulation site

associated with electrode E3 as the stimulation site that is to be stimulated in order to represent a different audio signal to the patient. In response, stimulation management facility 304 may dynamically designate, based on the identified stimulation site, electrode E3 as being a lone main electrode and electrodes E1 , E2, and E4 as being compensating electrodes. Stimulation management facility 304 may also dynamically determine, based on the identified stimulation site, an amount of main current to be applied to electrode E3, a first weighted amount of compensating current to be applied to electrode E1 , a second weighted amount of compensating current to be applied to electrode E2, and a third weighted amount of compensating current to be applied to electrode E4. Stimulation management facility 304 may then direct cochlear implant 108 to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently applying the determined amount of main current to electrode E3 and the determined weighted amounts of compensating current to electrodes E1 , E2, and E4.

[0059] Processing facility 302 may subsequently identify a stimulation site located somewhere in between stimulation sites associated with electrodes E2 and E3 as the stimulation site that is to be stimulated in order to represent yet a different audio signal to the patient. In response, stimulation management facility 304 may dynamically designate, based on the identified stimulation site, electrodes E2 and E3 as being main electrodes and electrodes E1 and E4 as being compensating electrodes. Stimulation management facility 304 may also dynamically determine, based on the identified stimulation site, a first weighted amount of main current to be applied to electrode E2, a second weighted amount of main current to be applied to electrode E3, a first weighted amount of compensating current to be applied to electrode E1 , and a second weighted amount of compensating current to be applied to electrode E4. Stimulation

management facility 304 may then direct cochlear implant 108 to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently applying the determined weighted amounts of main current to electrodes E2 and E3 and the determined weighted amounts of

compensating current to electrodes E1 and E4.

[0060] Continuing with the example in which four electrodes correspond to the stimulation channel associated with the identified stimulation site, stimulation

management facility 304 may alternatively perform the dynamic designation and the dynamic determination in accordance with a narrow focused stimulation strategy. A "narrow focused stimulation strategy" is similar to the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy described above, except that only two compensating electrodes (as opposed to three) are used when the identified stimulation site is associated with a boundary of the stimulation channel.

[0061] To illustrate an exemplary narrow focused stimulation strategy, reference is made to FIG. 10. FIG. 10 includes three panels 1002-1 through 1002-3 that each show excitation fields that may occur in response to stimulation of various configurations of four electrodes labeled E1 through E4.

[0062] Panel 1002-1 illustrates a scenario in which processing facility 302 identifies a stimulation site associated with electrode E2 as the stimulation site that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal to a patient. In response, stimulation management facility 304 may dynamically designate, based on the identified stimulation site, electrode E2 as being a lone main electrode and electrodes E1 and E3 as being compensating electrodes. Stimulation management facility 304 may also dynamically determine, based on the identified stimulation site, an amount of main current 1004 to be applied to electrode E2, a first weighted amount of compensating current 1006-1 to be applied to electrode E1 , and a second weighted amount of compensating current 1006-2 to be applied to electrode E3.

[0063] Stimulation management facility 304 may then direct cochlear implant 108 to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently applying the determined amount of main current to electrode E2 and the determined weighted amounts of compensating current to electrodes E1 and E3. As shown, stimulation management facility 304 may direct cochlear implant 108 to abstain from applying current to electrode E4. By so doing, an excitation field 1008 generated by main current 1004 may be focused. For the sake of comparison, an excitation field 1010 caused by monopolar stimulation of electrode E2 in the absence of compensation current is also shown in panel 1002-1 . As shown, excitation field 1008 is relatively more focused than excitation field 1010. In some cases, the degree of focusing may be narrower than that achieved in the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy because fewer electrodes (i.e., two versus three) are used to focus excitation field 1008.

[0064] As another example of the narrow focused stimulation strategy, panel 1002-2 illustrates a scenario in which processing facility 302 identifies a stimulation site located midway between the stimulation sites associated with electrodes E2 and E3 as the stimulation site that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal to a patient. In response, stimulation management facility 304 may dynamically designate, based on the identified stimulation site, electrodes E2 and E3 as being main electrodes and electrodes E1 and E4 as being compensating electrodes. Stimulation management facility 304 may also dynamically determine, based on the identified stimulation site, a first weighted amount of main current 1012-1 to be applied to electrode E2, a second weighted amount of main current 1012-2 to be applied to electrode E3, a first weighted amount of compensating current 1014-1 to be applied to electrode E1 , and a second weighted amount of compensating current 1014-2 to be applied to electrode E4.

[0065] Stimulation management facility 304 may then direct cochlear implant 108 to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently applying the determined weighted amounts of main current to electrodes E2 and E3, and the determined weighted amounts of compensating current to electrodes E1 and E4. By so doing, an excitation field 1016 generated by main current 1012-1 and 1012-2 may be focused. For the sake of comparison, an excitation field 1018 caused by conventional current steering between electrodes E2 and E3 in the absence of compensation current is also shown in panel 1002-2. As shown, excitation field 1016 is relatively more focused than excitation field 1018.

[0066] As another example of the narrow focused stimulation strategy, panel 1002-3 illustrates a scenario in which processing facility 302 identifies a stimulation site associated with electrode E3 as the stimulation site that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal to a patient. In response, stimulation management facility 304 may dynamically designate, based on the identified stimulation site, electrode E3 as being a lone main electrode and electrodes E2 and E4 as being compensating electrodes. Stimulation management facility 304 may also dynamically determine, based on the identified stimulation site, an amount of main current 1020 to be applied to electrode E3, a first weighted amount of compensating current 1022-1 to be applied to electrode E2, and a second weighted amount of compensating current 1022-2 to be applied to electrode E4.

[0067] Stimulation management facility 304 may then direct cochlear implant 108 to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently applying the determined amount of main current to electrode E3 and the determined weighted amounts of compensating current to electrodes E2 and E4. As shown, stimulation management facility 304 may direct cochlear implant 108 to abstain from applying current to electrode E1 . By so doing, an excitation field 1024 generated by main current 1020 may be focused. For the sake of comparison, an excitation field 1026 caused by monopolar stimulation of electrode E3 in the absence of compensation current is also shown in panel 1002-3. As shown, excitation field 1024 is relatively more focused than excitation field 1026. In some cases, the degree of focusing may be narrower than that achieved in the quadripolar with correction stimulation strategy because fewer electrodes (i.e., two versus three) are used to focus excitation field 1024.

[0068] In some examples, three electrodes correspond to the stimulation channel associated with the identified stimulation site - a first electrode, a second electrode, and a third electrode sequentially disposed within the cochlea. The first electrode is the most apically disposed of the three electrodes and the third electrode is the most basally disposed of the three electrodes. In these examples, stimulation management facility 304 may perform the dynamic designation and the dynamic determination in accordance with an inverse steering stimulation strategy. As used herein, an "inverse steering stimulation strategy" is one in which stimulation management facility 304 dynamically designates, based on the identified stimulation site, the middle electrode (i.e., the second electrodes) as the main electrode and one or both of the flanking electrodes (i.e., the first and/or third electrode) as compensating electrodes.

[0069] To illustrate an exemplary inverse steering stimulation strategy, reference is made to FIG. 1 1 . FIG. 1 1 includes three panels 1 102-1 through 1 102-3 that each show excitation fields that may occur in response to stimulation of various configurations of three electrodes labeled E1 through E3.

[0070] Panel 1 102-1 illustrates a scenario in which processing facility 302 identifies a stimulation site associated with electrode E3 as the stimulation site that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal to a patient. In response, stimulation management facility 304 may dynamically designate, based on the identified stimulation site, electrode E2 as being a lone main electrode and electrode E1 as being a lone compensating electrode. Stimulation management facility 304 may also dynamically determine, based on the identified stimulation site, an amount of main current 1 104 to be applied to electrode E2 and an amount of compensating current 1 106 to be applied to electrode E1 .

[0071] Stimulation management facility 304 may then direct cochlear implant 108 to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently applying the determined amount of main current to electrode E2 and the determined amount of compensating current to electrode E1 . As shown, stimulation management facility 304 may direct cochlear implant 108 to abstain from applying current to electrode E3. By so doing, an excitation field 1 108 generated by main current 1 104 may be focused. For the sake of

comparison, an excitation field 1 1 10 caused by monopolar stimulation of electrode E3 in the absence of compensation current is also shown in panel 1 102-1 . As shown, excitation field 1 108 is relatively more focused than excitation field 1 1 10.

[0072] Compensating current 1 106 may also shift a peak 1 1 12 of excitation field 1 108 to the right such that it is roughly located at the stimulation site associated with electrode E3. For the sake of comparison, a peak 1 1 14 of excitation field 1 1 10 is also indicated in panel 1 102-1 .

[0073] Panel 1 102-2 illustrates a scenario in which processing facility 302 identifies a stimulation site associated with electrode E2 as the stimulation site that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal to a patient. In response, stimulation management facility 304 may dynamically designate, based on the identified stimulation site, electrode E2 as being a lone main electrode and electrodes E1 and E3 as being compensating electrodes. Stimulation management facility 304 may also dynamically determine, based on the identified stimulation site, an amount of main current 1 1 16 to be applied to electrode E2, a first weighted amount of compensating current 1 1 18-1 to be applied to electrode E1 , and a second weighted amount of compensating current 1 1 18-2 to be applied to electrode E3.

[0074] Stimulation management facility 304 may then direct cochlear implant 108 to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently applying the determined amount of main current to electrode E2 and the determined amounts of compensating current to electrodes E1 and E3. The compensating current 1 1 18-1 and 1 1 18-2 may focus an excitation field 1 120 generated by main current 1 1 16. For the sake of comparison, an excitation field 1 122 caused by monopolar stimulation of electrode E2 in the absence of compensation current is also shown in panel 1 102-2. As shown, excitation field 1 120 is relatively more focused than excitation field 1 122.

[0075] Panel 1 102-3 illustrates a scenario in which processing facility 302 identifies a stimulation site associated with electrode E1 as the stimulation site that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal to a patient. In response, stimulation management facility 304 may dynamically designate, based on the identified stimulation site, electrode E2 as being a lone main electrode and electrode E3 as being a lone compensating electrode. Stimulation management facility 304 may also dynamically determine, based on the identified stimulation site, an amount of main current 1 126 to be applied to electrode E2 and an amount of compensating current 1 128 to be applied to electrode E3.

[0076] Stimulation management facility 304 may then direct cochlear implant 108 to stimulate the identified stimulation site by concurrently applying the determined amount of main current to electrode E2 and the determined amount of compensating current to electrode E3. As shown, stimulation management facility 304 may direct cochlear implant 108 to abstain from applying current to electrode E1 . By so doing, an excitation field 1 130 generated by main current 1 126 may be focused. For the sake of

comparison, an excitation field 1 132 caused by monopolar stimulation of electrode E1 in the absence of compensation current is also shown in panel 1 102-3. As shown, excitation field 1 130 is relatively more focused than excitation field 1 132.

[0077] Compensating current 1 128 may also shift a peak 1 134 of excitation field 1 130 to the left such that it is roughly located at the stimulation site associated with electrode E1 . For the sake of comparison, a peak 1 136 of excitation field 1 132 is also indicated in panel 1 102-3.

[0078] The inverse steering stimulation strategy described herein may

advantageously use relatively few electrodes and may result in a relatively high degree of focusing, which may be beneficial when it is desirable to represent frequencies at or near the boundary of an analysis channel. The inverse steering stimulation strategy described herein may be beneficial for various other reasons. It should be noted that in some embodiments, the choice of the stimulation configuration may be influenced not only by energy corresponding to the channel, but also by activity on a plurality of neighboring channels. For example, if a relatively large spectral peak is spanning a few channels, then the optimal configuration may be selected within each channel to represent this peak.

[0079] In some examples, once processing facility 302 has divided an audio signal presented to a patient into a plurality of analysis channels each containing a frequency domain signal representative of a distinct frequency portion of the audio signal, stimulation management facility 304 may direct cochlear implant 108 to apply electrical stimulation representative of each frequency domain signal included in the plurality of analysis channels in accordance with a stimulation strategy that includes a degree of focusing that is analysis channel-dependent. Such a stimulation strategy may be referred to herein as an "array extension steering stimulation strategy." [0080] FIG. 12 illustrates an exemplary array extension steering stimulation strategy 1200. In this strategy, two electrodes define each stimulation channel. For example, electrodes E1 and E2 define a first stimulation channel, electrodes E2 and E3 define a second stimulation channel, etc. In accordance with this stimulation strategy, current steering between each electrode pair is used to represent each frequency domain signal. For example, FIG. 12 shows that during each time slot (labeled "Time" in FIG. 12), equally weighted main current having an amplitude of 0.5 is applied to each electrode pair in a particular stimulation channel. To illustrate, during time slot 1 , equally weighted main current is applied to electrodes E1 and E2. It will be recognized that FIG. 12 shows that equally weighted main current is applied to both electrodes in an electrode pair for illustrative purposes only. Different weights may be used to stimulate different stimulation sites within each stimulation channel as may serve a particular implementation.

[0081] As shown in FIG. 12, the amount of compensating current applied to compensating electrodes during each time slot is analysis-channel dependent. For example, for the most apical pair (i.e., electrodes E1 and E2), the compensation is placed on the electrode basal to the pair (i.e., electrode E3). For the next electrode pair (i.e., electrodes E2 and E3), most of the compensation current is placed on the basal electrode (i.e., electrode E4), and some compensation current is placed on the apical electrode (i.e., electrode E1 ). Similarly, there is a progression on the basal side where progressively less and less compensation is placed on the apical compensating electrode, and more is placed on the basal compensating electrode. The net result may be that better separation of stimulation channels is achieved across the electrode array.

[0082] FIG. 13 illustrates an exemplary implementation 1300 of current steering that may be used in connection with any of the stimulation strategies described herein. The components and functions illustrated in FIG. 13 may be implemented by any of the systems, facilities, and/or modules described herein. For example, one or more components of sound processor 104 may be configured to perform any of the functions described in connection with FIG. 13.

[0083] As shown in FIG. 13, current steering may be applied to two or more electrodes 1302 (e.g., electrodes 1302-1 and 1302-2). Two electrodes 1302 are shown in FIG. 13 for illustrative purposes only. It will be recognized that current steering may alternatively be applied to three or more electrodes as may serve a particular application. Electrodes 1302-1 and 1302-2 may be adjacent one to another (i.e., no other electrode 1302 is physically disposed in between them on a lead). Alternatively, electrodes 1302-1 and 1302-2 may be non-adjacent (i.e., one or more electrodes 1302 are physically disposed in between them on a lead).

[0084] As shown in FIG. 13, an input signal may be filtered by at least one filter 1304 configured to generate a frequency domain signal representative of a distinct frequency portion of the audio signal. The input signal is also input into a frequency estimator 1306 configured to estimate the peak frequency thereof. A time pattern block 1308 is configured to build the temporal structure of a pulse train representing the signal output by the at least one filter 1304. Mapping modules 1310 are configured to map the amplitude of the signal output by the time pattern block 1308 to corresponding current levels in accordance with a suitable mapping function.

[0085] The output of each mapping module 1310 is input into a current steering module 1312. The current steering module 1312 is also configured to receive the output of the frequency estimator 1306. In some examples, the current steering module 1312 is configured to determine appropriate weighting factors for current to be applied to electrodes 1302-1 and 1302-2. This determination may be based at least in part on the peak frequency estimate and the output of each of the mapping modules 1310. The weighting factors may be applied to the current using multiplication blocks 1314. In this manner, stimulation current may be delivered to a stimulation site located in between areas associated with electrodes 1302-1 and 1302-2.

[0086] The excitation field produced by the current steering electrodes 1302-1 and 1302-2 may be focused by applying compensating current simultaneously to one or more additional electrodes (referred to herein as compensating electrodes). To illustrate, FIG. 14 illustrates another exemplary implementation 1400 of a current steering strategy that may be used to dynamically focus one or more excitation fields produced by current steering electrodes (e.g., electrodes 1302-1 and 1302-2). The components and functions illustrated in FIG. 14 may be implemented by any of the systems, facilities, and/or modules described herein. For example, one or more components of sound processor 104 may be configured to perform any of the functions described in connection with FIG. 14.

[0087] Implementation 1400 includes many of the same components as the implementation described in connection with FIG. 13. In addition, functional block diagram 1400 includes a focusing factor generator 1402 configured to generate focusing factor σ based on the amplitude of the signal output by filter 1304. The focusing factor σ is used to generate scaled versions of the current steering current. This scaled current is delivered via one or more additional electrodes (e.g., electrodes 1302-3 and 1302-4) to effectively focus or narrow the excitation field produced by electrodes 1302-1 and 1302-2.

[0088] As shown in FIG. 14, loudness compensators 1404 may also be included within the implementation 1400 of FIG. 14. Loudness compensators 1404 are configured to adjust the amplitudes of the currents applied via electrodes 1302-1 and 1302-2 to compensate for loudness changes that may be caused by current delivered via the compensating electrodes 1302-3 and 1302-4.

[0089] While exemplary implementations 1300 and 1400 of current steering have been described herein, it will be recognized that other implementations of current steering may be additionally or alternatively used in connection with the systems and methods described herein as may serve a particular implementation.

[0090] FIG. 15 illustrates an exemplary focusing method 1500 for use in a cochlear implant system. While FIG. 15 illustrates exemplary steps according to one

embodiment, other embodiments may omit, add to, reorder, and/or modify any of the steps shown in FIG. 15. One or more of the steps shown in FIG. 15 may be performed by sound processor 104 and/or any implementation thereof.

[0091] In step 1502, a sound processor identifies a stimulation site within a cochlea of a patient that is to be stimulated in order to represent an audio signal presented to the patient, the stimulation site included within a plurality of stimulation sites associated with a stimulation channel corresponding to a plurality of electrodes. Step 1502 may be performed in any of the ways described herein.

[0092] In step 1504, the sound processor dynamically designates, based on the identified stimulation site, a first group of one or more electrodes included in the plurality of electrodes as a group of one or more main electrodes and a second group of one or more electrodes included in the plurality of electrodes as a group of one or more compensating electrodes. Step 1504 may be performed in any of the ways described herein.

[0093] In step 1506, the sound processor dynamically determines, based on the identified stimulation site, an amount of main current to be applied to each electrode included in the first group of one or more electrodes in order to represent the audio signal and an amount of compensating current to be applied to each electrode included in the second group of one or more electrodes to focus an excitation field created by the main current, the compensating current opposite in polarity compared to the main current. Step 1506 may be performed in any of the ways described herein.

[0094] In the preceding description, various exemplary embodiments have been described with reference to the accompanying drawings. It will, however, be evident that various modifications and changes may be made thereto, and additional embodiments may be implemented, without departing from the scope of the invention as set forth in the claims that follow. For example, certain features of one embodiment described herein may be combined with or substituted for features of another embodiment described herein. The description and drawings are accordingly to be regarded in an illustrative rather than a restrictive sense.